Archive for the Gaza war crimes investigation Category

Palestinian PM blasts Israel ID law

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Everyday life in the West Bank, Fatah, Gaza, Gaza war crimes investigation, Hamas, History, IDF, International community, Israel, Israel politics, Israel's separation wall, Israeli occupation, Israeli politics, Palestine, Peace process, War crimes, West Bank on 23/04/2010 by 3071km

Source: Aljazeera English

Israel has defended a new policy that critics say could allow the Israeli military to expel tens of thousands of Palestinians from their own homes.

The new legislation, signed off six months ago and due to be implemented on Tuesday, amends an existing order from 1969 to prevent infiltration into the country.

The military policy now stipulates that all Palestinians in the occupied West Bank not carrying what Israel deems a valid identity card can be classified as “infiltrators”, and as such, could face deportation or up to seven years in prison.

The Israeli military order does not specify what would be accepted as valid identification.

Mark Regev, a spokesman for the Israeli government, denied that the amended measure was aimed at expelling Palestinians, but instead, said it would safeguard their rights.

“What we’ve done here is we’ve strengthened the rights of people who face such deportation by creating … an independent judicial oversight mechanism, which makes sure there are checks and balances and that the legal rights of people are protected,” he told Al Jazeera.

Under the old order, those served with deportation orders could be deported the same day, whereas the new amendments provide a 72-hour appeal period, he said.

Vague language

The controversial aspect of the measure, however, arises from the vague language now used to define an infiltrator, as reported by Israel’s Haaretz newspaper on Sunday.

“The order’s language is both general and ambiguous, stipulating that the term infiltrator will also be applied to Palestinian residents of Jerusalem, citizens of countries with which Israel has friendly ties [such as the United States] and Israeli citizens, whether Arab or Jewish,” Haaretz said.

“All this depends on the judgement of Israel defence forces commanders in the field.”

Palestinian leaders in the West Bank have condemned the policy, saying it contradicts international humanitarian law as well as UN Security Council decisions.

The measure “threatens the emptying of large areas of land from its Palestinian inhabitants,” Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister, said in a statement on Monday.

“The order targets thousands of Palestinians from Gaza who work and live in the West Bank and could lead to their forced deportation to the Gaza Strip,” he said.

Palestinians who have identification papers from neighbouring countries and foreign women married to Palestinians residing in the West Bank could also be affected by the changes.

Israeli forces besiege Prisoners Day commemoration

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Gaza, Gaza reconstruction, Gaza war crimes investigation, Hamas, IDF, International community, Israel, Israel politics, Israel's separation wall, Israeli occupation, Israeli politics, Palestine, Peace process, War crimes, West Bank on 22/04/2010 by 3071km

Source: Electronic Intifada

BEIT UMMAR, occupied West Bank (IPS) – A young Palestinian man died in Israeli custody as hundreds of Palestinians took to the streets of villages and towns across the West Bank and Gaza to commemorate Palestinian Prisoners Day on Friday, 16 April.

Raed Abu Hammad, 31, was found dead in his prison cell late on Friday after spending the last 18 months in solitary confinement.

The Hamas member was sentenced to 10 years in jail in 2005 for attempted political assassinations.

His lawyer Tareq Barghouti told the media that Hammad was on medication and psychologically ill.

The exact cause of his death is still being investigated after the Israeli authorities announced an autopsy was being carried out.

However, rights groups and fellow Palestinian prisoners, both current and former, have accused the Israeli Prison Services of maltreatment and neglect.

“Hammad is the 198th Palestinian prisoner to die in Israeli custody since 1967 when Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza,” said Shawan Jabarin from the Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq in Ramallah.

“Many of the deaths have been from natural causes. However, Israel has carried out a deliberate policy of maltreatment and neglect by denying appropriate medical treatment to ill Palestinians. This has aggravated their physical condition and hastened unnecessary deaths,” Jabarin told IPS.

“Several prisoners died from force feeding when they embarked on a hunger strike. Tubes were forced through their noses which subsequently caused damage to their livers.”

“Furthermore, approximately 20 Palestinians have died during Israeli interrogation from beatings and torture since the outbreak of the first Palestinian intifada in December 1987,” explained Jabarin.

Israeli human rights organizations forced the domestic intelligence agency, the Shin Bet or General Security Services, to change its methods of interrogation after taking the torture of Palestinian prisoners to Israeli courts.

There are now limits to the amount of physical abuse Israeli interrogators can apply to Palestinian prisoners during interrogation.

Palestinian prisoners and their families also accuse the Israelis of forcing the prisoners to endure unhygienic conditions, substandard food, beatings and the denial of family visits.

There are currently approximately 10,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli custody. Hundreds are being held in administrative detention or without trial.

Meanwhile, the Israeli military sealed off the village of Beit Ummar in the southern West Bank, north of Hebron, where a prisoner commemoration ceremony was taking place.

Several photographers working with IPS took photos of Israeli soldiers using a young boy as a human shield despite being shot at by the soldiers.

IPS managed to enter the village prior to the exits and entrances being blocked by soldiers as clashes broke out between Palestinian youths and Israeli soldiers.

The confrontations broke out after military jeeps entered the agricultural village and attempted to break up the commemoration.

The village committee had laid out hundreds of chairs and organized music for the celebration when it was stormed by the Israeli military.

Youngsters in the village had spent months rehearsing and preparing for the event which included speeches, dances, plays and music.

“You’ve got five minutes to evacuate the area,” barked the Israeli military commander to the organizers who tried to negotiate the peaceful withdrawal of the soldiers. “If you don’t leave we will arrest you all. This is not open to negotiation.”

“I tried to negotiate with the soldiers. I told them if they withdraw from the village we will control the youngsters. The place where the celebration was taking place is far from the main road and the settlements,” Mousa Abu Maria, an activist leader from the village, told IPS.

But the youths remained defiant and sat down on the ground and refused to move. After the Israeli soldiers withdrew to the entrance of the village, the commemorations continued.

Military jeeps then returned and were met with a hail of stones. They responded with tear gas, rubber-coated metal bullets and some live ammunition.

Sabri Ibrahim Awad, 15, was left bruised and limping after he was used as a human shield by the Israeli soldiers as he rode his bike past them. He was not involved in the clashes.

He was grabbed by the scruff of the neck and marched in front of the soldiers as rocks showered down. He was then cuffed and arrested and thrown into the back of a jeep.

Several hours later a traumatized Awad was released.

Israel security forces have used Palestinians as human shields both in Gaza and the West Bank despite international law and Israeli courts ruling this illegal.

The UN-commissioned Goldstone report admonished the Israelis for endangering the lives of Palestinian youngsters during Israel’s assault on Gaza in winter 2008-09.

While the Gazan youths faced live fire and Awad “only” faced rocks, Abu Maria said it represented a dangerous escalation in Israeli tactics.

“The soldiers have abused many youths in the village. But to take a completely innocent youngster and expose him to this danger is totally unacceptable,” Abu Maria told IPS.

In another development, the Israeli military has placed the West Bank under a complete lock-down for several days as Israel celebrates its independence.

This is the third time since the beginning of March that Palestinians from the West Bank have been sealed off from Jerusalem for days.

All rights reserved, IPS — Inter Press Service (2010). Total or partial publication, retransmission or sale forbidden.

Barak urges end to occupation

Posted in Activism, Everyday life in Gaza, Fatah, Gaza, Gaza reconstruction, Gaza war crimes investigation, IDF, Israel, Israel politics, Israeli occupation, Israeli politics, Palestine, Peace process, USA foreign policy, War crimes, West Bank on 20/04/2010 by 3071km

Source: Aljazeera English

Israel occupied the West Bank after
the
1967 Middle East war [AFP]

Ehud Barak, Israel’s defence minister, has said that his country must recognise that the world will not put up with decades more of Israeli rule over the Palestinian people.

Speaking to Israel Radio on Israel’s Memorial Day on Monday, Barak acknowledged that there was no way forward in negotiations with the Palestinians other than to meet their aspirations for a state of their own.

“The world is not willing to accept – and we will not change that in 2010 – the expectation that Israel will rule another people for decades more,” he said.

“It is something that does not exist anywhere else in the world.

“There is no other way, whether you like it or not, than to let them [the Palestinians] rule themselves.”

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been stalled since Israeli forces launched a 22-day offensive in the Gaza Strip in December 2008.

‘Alienation’

Barak heads the Labour Party, the most moderate member of the government of Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, and it was not clear if his remarks were his personal opinion or reflecting a changing attitude within the government.

He said that Netanyahu’s government had “done things that did not come naturally to it”, such as adopting the vision of two states for two peoples and curtailing settlement construction.

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Comments: US-Israel relations
Jerusalem’s religious heart
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Q&A: Jewish settlements
The Arab peace initiative
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Holy Land Grab

“But we also should not delude ourselves. The growing alienation between us and the United States is not good for the state of Israel,” he said.

Washington and its long-time ally have been at odds in recent months over Israel’s continuing settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Barack Obama, the US president, recently issued a pessimistic assessment of peacemaking prospects, saying that his country could not force its will on the Israelis and Palestinians if they were not interested in making compromises.

The Israeli defence minister said that the way to narrow the gap with the US was to embark on a diplomatic initiative “that does not shy from dealing with all the core issues” dividing Israelis and Palestinians.

Chief among these are the status of Jerusalem, final borders and a solution for Palestinian refugees from the 1948 Middle East war.

Meanwhile, in an interview Monday on ABC’s “Good Morning America”, Netanyahu south to minimise differences with the US and said he would not accept Palestinian demands that Israel stop building in predominantly-Arab East Jerusalem.

He said that the US and Israel “have some outstanding issues. We are trying to resolve them through diplomatic channels in the best way that we can”.

Later on Monday, Netanyahu told the audience at the national cemetery that Israel is eager for peace, but is ready to confront its enemies.

“We extend one hand in peace to all our neighbours who wish for peace. Our other hand grasps the sword of David in order to defend our people against those who seek to kill us,” he said.

Israel’s Memorial Day, which is dedicated to the nearly 23,000 fallen soldiers and civilian victims of attacks, is observed with a two-minute nationwide siren when people stand at attention, traffic is halted and everyday activities come briefly to a standstill.

At sundown on Monday, the sombre Memorial Day will switch to Israel’s 62nd Independence Day celebrations.

Azam has a real story to tell

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Everyday life in the West Bank, Fatah, Gaza, Gaza reconstruction, Gaza war crimes investigation, History, IDF, International community, International conferences, Israel, Israel politics, Israeli occupation, Israeli politics, Operation Cast Lead, Palestine, Pictures, Siege, War crimes, West Bank on 11/04/2010 by 3071km

Azam is looking for unknown ways to get back to his family in Gaza

Azam  has a long and sad story! He left Gaza during the last war as his wife got an American nationality, but unfortunately, after the end of the war he was not allowed by the Israeli to get back to Gaza again with his family! of course, the Stories of the Palestinians suffering will not end here.

here you are his story as he sent it to us two days ago!

On the Borders

by Azzam Almosallami

I still remember that scream of the child on the borders. The sun was fiery, and the mother was wiping the perspiration drops off her forehead. The cadaverous features had drawn at the family faces as a result of the big fatigue of travel .
Despite the severe hard situation that the family was facing, the love
among the family members was mitigating the pain of suffering. The child was playing cherubically between his father and mother, as if the kindness of his parents was protecting him from the stress of travel. The child was transforming between his parents like a small charming bird learning flight among the branches of trees.
The land was barren on the borders- there! you would not see more than some terrestrial and arid plants, and some of the standing army working next to, or inside a caravan. The parents were sitting on hard chairs made by iron. The seats were uncomfortable, so they were always wriggling on them.
I was listening to some catchwords that the family was talking about.
I heard the child telling his mother, “mom… ! when we reach our home, I’ll ride my bicycle that I am keeping in my room, Also I’ll drop my dolls and toys that I’m keeping in a box on the top of my cupboard.”
They were really appearing like they were longing to reach their small paradise… their home!
After 4-hour-hard waiting, two policemen of the borders came to the family with their passports. They told the father abrasively, ” hey man!… you can’t cross the borders to your home, you have no permission, but your family have a permission. So, you must go back where you have come. ” The family shocked! and the panic catches on their hearts because of these horrible news. How they will not be joined with each other to their lovely home! The mother hardly gasped, and asked the police ” how the child and I can cross these lonely borders without our man!… how you could have a pluckiness to separate between a father and his family.” The police replied harshly, ” if you don’t like to be far away from your husband, you can join him and go back to where you have come.” The father thought for a while, and then he decided to face this mysterious situation alone. He convinced his wife to go back with their cherubic child to their warmer home, and he will try to join them after a while.
The policemen took the family out the caravan, and there, two police cars were waiting them. they pulled the father to one car, and the mother and the child to the other car. The child turned his face, peeking through his father, and when he found himself faraway for the father, he could flee from the hard catch of the policeman, and ran away into his father’s warm cuddle. The child’s arms tightened ardently around the father’s thigh, hardly catching his trousers. The policeman followed the child, trying to pull him far away from the father. The child screamed with reddish eyes and warm tears, ” I want my dad…! ”
The policeman brutish catch was much stronger than the childish catch, and then he could flee the child, hustling him toward the car. The mother of the cleaved heart, was wiping the hot tears through her bloody eyes, and swabbing drops of mucus on her lips by a handkerchief wetted by a severe wail.
The child could flee again from the policeman brutish catch, and suddenly he transformed into a stronger fighter. He catches a stone and threw it toward the policeman to trickling blood into his cheek. The wrathful policeman catch the child brutally, to hustling him and the mother into the car.
I still remember those bloody eyes, and hot tears of the child and the mother through the car’s windows. I still remember those small hands of the child which were climbing on the window’s glass. They were saying a lot about the prejudice that some people are facing on the borders.
When the child reached home, he took his toys, dolls and bicycle and sold them. And by money, he bought a gun. The child decided not to be a child!

Is/was there a genocide in Palestine?

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Gaza, Gaza war crimes investigation, Hamas, History, IDF, Israel, Israel politics, Israeli occupation, Israeli politics, Operation Cast Lead, Palestine, War crimes on 09/02/2010 by 3071km

Palestine_Holocaust_Dead_Children

Date Published: February 8, 2010

Source: The palestine Telegraph, by Sameh Habeeb

 Having commemorated Holocaust Memorial Day with survivor Hajo Meyer and some other Jewish friends after a talk at Goldsmith University last week, it is clear to me that Palestinians have many common experiences with the survivors of the Holocaust.

Meyer’s imprisonment in the ghetto and ordeal at checkpoints is a stereotypical image in occupied Palestine. I was personally amazed to hear him admit that Palestinians’ suffering is close to that of the Holocaust. I was amazed because I heard it not from a Palestinian, but from a Jewish man who has suffered a lot.

For a long time, it has been widely argued that genocide has not been committed in Palestine. While some “left-leaning” media outlets say there was genocide, one that is still in progress, the Israeli narrative rejects the use of this term for the Palestinian experience. Without doubt, the Germans perpetrated genocide against the Jews in WWII. Around 6 million Jews were killed across Europe in an act that can never be tolerated by humanity. It was a huge crime.

There have, however, been genocides against many other people, such as the American Indians and the Armenians, which must also be remembered. Most of these genocides are on a smaller scale than the Holocaust, but surely the fact that genocide has occurred must be condemned no matter what the scale. Indeed, this seems to be the feeling of many Holocaust survivors themselves. They believe it is crucial to recognize, condemn and fight genocide wherever it is happening no matter whether it involves a few thousand or millions. 

The core question here is whether the Palestinians suffered genocide perpetrated by the government of Israel. Has Israel attempted to ethnically cleanse Palestinians from its land? Is the term genocide legally applicable? Readers must make their own judgment.

In 1944, Polish-Jewish lawyer Raphael Lemkin coined the word “genocide” by combining “geno,” from the Greek word for race or tribe, with “cide” from the Latin word for killing. He proposed that genocide consists of “a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves.”

Has this happened in Palestine? According to the history of the founding of Israel, thousands of violent actions have been committed against one group of people: Palestinians. More than 535 villages were destroyed, thousands of residents were massacred and around 800,000 people were driven from their homes by force or fear of force. This process is described by Israeli historian Ilan Pappé and others as ‘the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.’ If genocide is essentially the annihilation of a group, surely this is genocide.

On Dec. 9, 1948, the United Nations approved the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. This convention establishes “genocide” as an international crime, which signatory nations “undertake to prevent and punish.” It defines genocide this way:  Genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group:

Killing members of the group.
In 1948, thousands of Palestinians were exterminated by terrorist Jewish groups like the Stern, Haganah and Irgun. Other villagers were told to leave or they would be killed. The Deir Yassin massacre took place on April 9, 1948. More than 100 villagers, including women and children, were annihilated. Some were shot with live ammunition, while others burned to death as rockets rained down on the village. Prisoners were killed after being paraded through the streets in occupied Jerusalem. And it didn’t stop in 1948. In 1956, a massacre of 500 villagers took place in Khan Younis in the middle of the Gaza Strip. Others killed were Egyptians who were policing the area at that time.

Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group.
The deadly siege in Gaza could easily be considered genocide according to this descriptor. Bodily harm has been caused not only during the siege or the last invasion (December 2008/January 2009), but since the beginning of the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

The overwhelming majority of the victims have been civilians, whereas only a small minority were resistance fighters. Some international agencies claim that 93 percent of those victimized were civilian, while only 7% were resistance fighters. (See the report, “Failing Gaza.“)

Organized and systematic attacks against civilians in Gaza can also be considered to be part of the genocide. Several months before Operation Cast Lead, an Israeli minister even used the term “holocaust” to describe what is planned for the citizens of Gaza. On Feb. 28, 2008, the Guardian, BBC and other British media outlets reported the story under the headline, “Israeli minister warns of Palestinian ‘holocaust’.” The Guardian reported that “an Israeli minister today warned of an  increasingly bitter conflict in the Gaza Strip, saying the Palestinians could bring on themselves what he called a “holocaust”.

“The more Qassam [rocket] fire intensifies and the rockets reach a longer range, they will bring upon themselves a bigger shoah because we will use all our might to defend ourselves,” Matan Vilnai, Israel’s deputy defence minister, told Army Radio.

“Shoah” is the Hebrew word normally reserved to refer to the Jewish Holocaust. It is rarely used in Israel outside discussions of the Nazi extermination of Jews during the second World War, and many Israelis are loath to countenance its use to describe other events.

Mental harm should also be considered. As pointed out in many UN agency reports, all Gazan children suffer mental and emotional problems. Stress and trauma make the children sick-minded due to constant fear. They have no opportunities for fun and joy, since the Israeli blockade even includes a ban on toys. It is not an exaggeration to say that a considerable number of the Gazan population are exhausted and mentally drained. They live with the constant realities of deprivation, war, restriction of freedom and death.

Inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.
This has been happening for years, ever since the establishment of the state of Israel. Focusing on the Gaza Strip today, the siege has impacted every aspect of life. Factories have stopped operating, and food just trickles in. Add to that the fact that people have no freedom of movement beyond their “concentration camp,” with just two gates that open irregularly.

The Israeli blockade on exports and on all but humanitarian imports has forced 98 percent of Gaza’s industry to close. Around 1.5 million Palestinians live in just 360 square km (139 square mile). More than three-quarters of the residents are refugees whose families were driven from their land in what is now Israel in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

The remaining two characteristics of what constitutes genocide include imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group and transferring children of the group to another group. These remaining two characteristics were most evident in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war and the 1967 war.

Blair: Gaza’s great betrayer

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Gaza, Gaza reconstruction, Gaza war crimes investigation, Hamas, History, International community, International conferences, Israel, Israel politics, Israel's separation wall, Israeli occupation, Israeli politics, Operation Cast Lead, Palestine, Peace process, Siege, War crimes on 05/02/2010 by 3071km

Tony Blair visiting Gaza, June 2009

Tony Blair in June 2009 speaking at a press conference in Gaza calling for a quick reconstruction. Photograph: Hatem Moussa/AP

Date Published:  3 February 2010

Source: The Guardian

It’s more than a year since Israel launched its immoral attack on Gaza and Palestinians are still living on the verge of a humanitarian disaster. So what has Tony Blair done to further peace in the region? Virtually nothing, argues the historian Avi Shlaim

The savage attack Israel ­unleashed against Gaza on 27 December 2008 was both immoral and unjustified. Immoral in the use of force against civilians for political purposes. Unjustified because Israel had a political alternative to the use of force. The home-made Qassam rockets fired by Hamas militants from Gaza on Israeli towns were only the ­excuse, not the reason for Operation Cast Lead. In June 2008, Egypt had ­brokered a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, the Islamic resistance movement. ­Contrary to Israeli propaganda, this was a success: the average number of rockets fired monthly from Gaza dropped from 179 to three. Yet on 4 November Israel violated the ceasefire by launching a raid into Gaza, killing six Hamas fighters. When Hamas ­retaliated, Israel seized the renewed rocket attacks as the ­excuse for launching its insane offensive. If all Israel wanted was to protect its citizens from Qassam rockets, it only needed to ­observe the ceasefire.

While the war failed in its primary aim of regime change in Gaza, it left ­behind a trail of death, devastation, ­destruction and indescribable human suffering. Israel lost 13 people, three in so-called friendly fire. The Palestinian death toll was 1,387, including 773 civilians (115 women and 300 children), and more than 5,300 people were injured. The ­entire population of 1.5 million was left traumatised. Across the Gaza Strip, 3,530 homes were completely ­destroyed, 2,850 severely damaged and 11,000 suffered structural damage.

The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees, tending to the needs of four million Palestinian ­refugees, stated that Gaza had been “bombed back, not to the Stone Age, but to the mud age”; its inhabitants ­reduced to building homes from mud after the fierce 22-day offensive.

War crimes were committed and possibly even crimes against humanity, documented in horrific detail in Judge Richard Goldstone’s report for the UN human rights council. The report ­condemned both Israel and Hamas, but reserved its strongest criticism for Israel, accusing it of deliberately targeting and terrorising civilians in Gaza. The British government did not take part in the vote on the report, sending a signal to the hawks in Israel that they can continue to disregard the laws of war. Gordon Brown’s 2007 appointment as a patron of the Jewish National Fund UK presumably played a part in the adoption of this ­pusillanimous position.

One year on, the Gaza Strip, one of the most densely populated areas on earth, continues to teeter on the verge of a humanitarian disaster. Israel’s ­illegal blockade of Gaza, in force since June 2007, restricts the flow not only of arms but also food, fuel and medical supplies to well below the minimum necessary for normal, everyday life. Reconstruction work has hardly begun because of the Israeli ban on bringing in cement and other building materials to Gaza. Thousands of families still live in the ruins of their former homes. Hospitals, health facilities, schools, government buildings and mosques cannot be rebuilt. Nor can the basic ­infrastructure of the Gaza Strip, including Gaza City’s sewage disposal plant. Today, 80% of Gaza’s population ­remain dependent on food aid, 43% are unemployed, and 70% live on less than $1 a day.

Meanwhile, the so-called peace process cannot be revived because ­Israel refuses to freeze settlement ­expansion on the West Bank. Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu recently agreed to a temporary freeze of 10 months, but this does not apply to the 3,000 pre-approved housing units to be built on the West Bank or to any part of Greater Jerusalem. It’s like two men negotiating the division of a pizza while one continues to gobble it up.

Politically, the disjunction between words and deeds persists. Appeals to the Israeli government to lift or relax the blockade of Gaza were not backed up by effective pressure or the threat of sanctions. In fact, the only effective pressure was applied by the US on the Egyptian government – to seal its border with Gaza. Egypt has its own reason for complying: Hamas is ideologically ­allied with the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic opposition to the Egyptian regime. The tunnels under the border separating Egypt from the Gaza Strip bring food and material relief to the people under siege. Yet, under US ­supervision and with the help of US army engineers, Egypt is building an 18-metre-deep underground steel wall to disrupt the tunnels and tighten the blockade.

The wall of shame, as Egyptians call it, will complete the transformation of Gaza into an open-air prison. It is the cruellest example of the concerted ­Israeli-Egyptian-US policy to isolate and prevent Hamas from leading the Palestinian struggle for self-determi­nation. Hamas is habitually dismissed by its enemies as a purely terrorist ­organisation. Yet no one can deny that it won a fair and free election in the West Bank as well as Gaza in January 2006. Moreover, once Hamas gained power through the ballot box, its ­leaders adopted a more pragmatic stand ­towards Israel than that enshrined in its charter, repeatedly expressing its readiness to negotiate a long-term ceasefire. But there was no one to talk to on the Israeli side.

Israel adamantly refused to recognise the Hamas-led government. The US and the European Union ­followed, ­resorting to economic ­sanctions in a vain attempt to turn the people against their elected leaders. This cannot ­possibly bring ­security or stability ­because it is based on the denial of the most ­elementary human rights of the people of Gaza and the collective political rights of the ­Palestinian people. Through its special relationship with the US and its staunch support for ­Israel, the ­British government is implicated in this shameful policy.

At present the British public is ­preoccupied with Tony Blair and the war in Iraq. What is often ­overlooked is that this was only one aspect of a disastrous British policy towards the Middle East, inaugurated by Blair, and which shows no sign of changing under his successor.

One of Blair’s arguments used to ­justify the Iraq war was that it would help bring justice to the long-suffering Palestinians. In his House of Commons speech on 18 March 2003, he promised that action against Iraq would form part of a broader engagement with the problems of the Middle East. He even declared that resolving the Israeli-­Palestinian dispute was as important to Middle East peace as removing Saddam Hussein from power.

Yet by focusing international ­attention on Iraq, the war further ­marginalised the Palestinian question. To be fair, Blair persuaded the Quartet (a group consisting of the US, the UN, the EU and Russia) to issue the Roadmap in 2003, which called for the creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel by the end of 2005. But President George Bush was not genuinely committed and only adopted it under pressure from his ­allies. Ariel Sharon, Israel’s hard-line prime minister at the time, wrecked the plan by continuing to expand Israeli settlements on the West Bank. Could Blair really not have realised that for Bush the special relationship that ­counted was the one with Israel? Every time Bush had to choose between Blair and Sharon, he chose Sharon.

Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in August 2005 was not a contribution to the Roadmap but an attempt to unilaterally redraw the borders of Greater Israel and part of a plan to ­entrench the occupation there. Yet in return for the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, Sharon extracted from the US a written agreement to Israel’s ­retention of the major settlement blocs on the West Bank. Bush’s support amounted to an abrupt reversal of US policy since 1967, which regarded the settlements as illegal and as an obstacle to peace. Blair publicly endorsed the pact, probably to preserve a united ­Anglo-American front at any price. It was the most egregious British ­betrayal of the Palestinians since the Balfour Declaration of 1917.

In July 2006, at the height of the savage Israeli onslaught on Lebanon, Blair opposed a security council ­resolution for an immediate and ­unconditional ceasefire: he wanted to give Israel an opportunity to destroy Hezbollah, the radical Shi’ite religious-political movement. One year later, in June 2007, he resigned from office. That day he was appointed the Quartet’s special envoy to Israel and the Palestinian Authority. His main sponsor was Bush and his blatant partisanship on behalf of Israel was probably considered a qualification. His appointment ­coincided with the collapse of the ­Palestinian national unity government, the reassertion of Fatah rule in the West Bank and the violent seizure of power by Hamas in Gaza.

Blair’s main tasks were to mobilise international assistance for the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority, to promote good governance and the rule of law in the Palestinian territories, and to further Palestinian economic development. His broader mission, was “to promote an end to the conflict in conformity with the Roadmap”.

On taking up his appointment, Blair said that: “The absolute priority is to try to give effect to what is now the consensus across the international community – that the only way of bringing stability and peace to the ­Middle East is a two-state solution.” His appointment was received with great satisfaction by the Israelis and with utter dismay by the Arabs.

In his two and a half years as special envoy, Blair has achieved remarkably little. True, Blair helped persuade the Israelis to reduce the number of West Bank checkpoints from 630 to 590; he helped to create employment oppor­tunities; and he may have contributed to a slight improvement in living ­standards in Palestine. But the Americans remained fixated on security rather than on economic development, and their policy remains skewed in favour of ­Israel. Barack Obama made a promising start as ­president by insisting on a complete settlement freeze on the West Bank, but was compelled to back down, ­dashing many of our high hopes.

One reason for Blair’s disappointing results is that he wears too many hats and cannot, as he promised, be “someone who is on the ground spending 24/7 on the issue”. Another reason is his “West Bank first” attitude – ­continuing the western policy of bolstering Fatah and propping up the ailing Palestinian Authority against Hamas. His lack of commitment to Gaza is all too evident. During the Gaza war, he did not call for a ceasefire. He has one standard for ­Israel and one for its victims. His attitude to Gaza is to wait for change rather than risk ­incurring the displeasure of his American and ­Israeli friends. As ­envoy, Blair has been inside Gaza only twice; once to visit a UN school just ­beyond the border and once to Gaza City. His project for sanitation in northern Gaza was never completed because he could not ­persuade the Israelis to ­allow in the last small load of pipes needed. A growing group of western politicians has ­publicly acknowledged the necessity of talking to Hamas if meaningful progress is to be achieved; Blair is not one of their number.

Blair has totally failed to fulfil the ­official role of the envoy “to promote an end to the conflict in conformity with the Roadmap”, largely for reasons beyond his control. The most ­important of these is Israel’s determination to perpetuate the isolation and the de-development of Gaza and deny the Palestinian people a small piece of land – 22% of Mandate-era ­Palestine, to be precise – on which to live in freedom and dignity. It is a policy that Baruch Kimmerling, the late Israeli sociologist, named ­”politicide” – the denial to the ­Palestinian people of any independent political existence in Palestine.

Partly, however, Blair’s failure is due to his own personal limitations; his ­inability to grasp that the fundamental issue in this tragic conflict is not Israeli security but Palestinian national rights, and that concerted and sustained ­international pressure is required to compel Israel to recognise these rights. The core issue cannot be avoided: there can be no settlement of the ­conflict without an end to the Israeli occupation. There is international consensus for a two-state solution, but Israel rejects it and Blair has been unable or unwilling to use the Quartet to enforce it.

Blair’s failure to stand up for Palestinian independence is precisely what endears him to the Israeli establishment. In February of last year, while the ­Palestinians in Gaza were still mourning their dead, Blair received the Dan David prize from Tel Aviv University as the “laureate for the present time ­dimension in the field of leadership”. The citation praised him for his ­”exceptional intelligence and foresight, and demonstrated moral courage and leadership”. The prize is worth $1m. I may be cynical, but I cannot help viewing this prize as absurd, given Blair’s silent complicity in Israel’s ­continuing crimes against the ­Palestinian people.

 Avi Shlaim is professor of international relations at St Antony’s College, Oxford, and the author of Israel and Palestine: Reappraisals, Revisions, Refutations (Verso, 2009). His fee for this article has been donated to Medical Aid for Palestine

UN unsure if Gaza probes set up

Posted in Activism, Everyday life in Gaza, Everyday life in the West Bank, Gaza reconstruction, Gaza war crimes investigation, International community, International conferences, Israel, Israel politics, Israel's separation wall, Israeli occupation, Operation Cast Lead, Palestine, Peace process, Siege on 05/02/2010 by 3071km

Source: Aljazeera English

The UN secretary general has said he cannot determine if the Israelis and Palestinians have complied with a UN demand to carry out credible and independent investigations into alleged war crimes during the war in Gaza more than a year ago.

Ban Ki-moon told the UN General Assembly in a report released on Thursday that both sides were still looking into the allegations made in a September report by Richard Goldstone, a South African judge and former international war crimes prosecutor.

“No determination can be made on the implementation of the [UN] resolution by the parties concerned,” Ban said in his report to the 192-member assembly that contains responses provided by Israel and the Palestinians.

Al Jazeera’s Kristen Saloomey, reporting from the UN headquarters in New York, said anyone looking to the UN chief to make a stand on the investigations demanded would have been disappointed.

In his 72-page report, Ban mostly forwards reports to him from the Palestinians and Israelis and makes no assessment himself, our correspondent said.

‘Hope’ over probes

Last Friday, Ban received a 46-page report from Israel in which it denied violating international law, but admitted “tragic results” due to the “complexity and scale” of conducting a military operation in a heavily populated area.

 Ban highlighted Israel’s assertion that two of its senior officers – a brigadier-general and a colonel – were disciplined for the firing of white phosphorous shells towards a UN compound during the Gaza war.

Also last Friday, Ban was handed a preliminary report from the Palestinians in which they said a commission of five well-known judges and legal experts had been set up.

In his report on Thursday, Ban said he had on several occasions urged both sides “to carry out credible domestic investigations into the conduct of the Gaza conflict”.

“I hope that such steps will be taken wherever there are credible allegations of human rights abuses,” he added.

A UN spokesman said the General Assembly would meet soon to discuss Ban’s Gaza report.

The Goldstone report accused Israel and Palestinian fighters of war crimes during the Gaza war.

Most of criticism in the report was directed towards Israel, which was accused of using “disproportionate force” and deliberately targeting civilians.

It recommended that its findings be passed to the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court at The Hague if Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian faction which governs the Gaza Strip, fail to carry out credible independent investigations of the claims by Friday – six months from when the report was submitted.

About 1,400 Palestinians – many of them women and children – were killed in the war. Thirteen Israelis, including three civilians, were also killed.